2019 PR Summit – A Recap on the Minds & Brands Driving Pittsburgh Forward

By: Ashley Jones

On Wednesday, November 7, Pittsburgh PR professionals in various stages of their careers and aspiring students took time from the typical evening of late-night work and last-minute essay writing to attend this year’s annual PR Summit at SLATE STUDIOS. Located in the Strip District, the recently opened event venue has been freshly renovated, however maintains its original molded ceiling – a feature common among buildings in historic areas such the Strip and South Side. Its mix of restoration and antiquity served as a most fitting setting for this year’s PR Summit theme: Legends of Pittsburgh: Old, New & Resurrected.

After an indulgence of Iron City Beer and Iron Born Pizza, President of the PRSA Pittsburgh Chapter Meredith Klein kicked the night off with an eloquent introduction that reminded all attendees to use the occasion as an opportunity to network, pose questions, bounce ideas and, ultimately, celebrate the profession and the city in which we all have found our individual successes.

The evening’s keynote speaker, Melissa Wade, Senior Communications Director, VisitPITTSBURGH, delved into what makes Pittsburgh “hot.” In other words, what makes Pittsburgh an attraction? How do we get people here? From the arts to the scenery to the food to (who could forget?) the sports, Pittsburgh has a multitude of diverse activities and culture incomparable to other cities and alluring to anyone who isn’t a native. While the current foodie scene and tech boom earn Pittsburgh current recognition and entice outsiders, its rich history is also embraced. Wade reminded the room that Pittsburgh is, and always has been, a city of innovation. Pittsburgh brought the nation the first movie theater, the Polio Vaccine, the Big Mac, among other milestones. But, what makes Pittsburgh truly welcoming, unique and resilient? The people who drive it forward.

“We’re not just a city of the future. We ARE the future,” said Wade in her closing sentiments.

Following Wade’s presentation and a brief intermission was a panel truly representative of the “old, new & resurrected.” Panelists included Chris Daley, Senior Manager, Digital Media, UPMC; Anthony Vennare, CEO & Co-Founder, Fitt; and Ben Butler, APR, Founder, Top Hat — the agency of record for Iron City Beer. Dan Ayer, Founder, Field General Communications, served as a comedic moderator as he guided the conversation and Q&A segments for topics including ideation, growth and recreating relevance. From the consistency of a staple like UPMC, to the formation of a new company, to the revival of an original Pittsburgh brand, attendees were exposed to various perspectives and approaches to branding and PR at the different stages of a brand’s journey.

Despite what phase we as professionals are at in our careers, or what stage our clients are in in their own journeys, Chris Daley said it best, “It’s about having the best idea and doing it service.”

Thank you to our sponsors, speakers and attendees for making PR Summit such an enjoyable and informative event.

Reminder – Call for entries for the 2019 Renaissance Awards is OPEN! Submit your best work, now!

Interested in serving on the 2019 PRSA Pittsburgh Board? Contact Meredith Klein or Ben Butler to learn more about the opportunities currently available!

Social Media & Digital Communications Tips from Ragan PR

By Megha Pai

Seattle is home to much more than the Space Needle and urban greenery – earlier this summer, the Emerald City played host to the Ragan PR Social Media & Digital Communications Conference at Amazon HQ. For those who didn’t get the chance to attend, below are some exclusive tips from the conference.

Create Content That Captivates

Andrew Davis, bestselling author, thinks content creators should take a note from reality TV shows. “Create suspense,” Davis says – by raising the stakes in your content, you’re giving your audience a story that can’t be ignored. Don’t reveal all the answers in the beginning, either – leverage the audience’s curiosity to weave a narrative they can’t walk away from.

Cultivate Community

Algorithms can be tricky to work with – but your social media strategy can be successful without catering to fluctuations in these algorithms. The secret? Nadia Petschek Rawls, director of social media and audience development at TED, urges communicators to focus on their audience. “Give your community a place to gather,” Rawls says. By identifying your unique value proposition and leveraging it in every piece of content you make, you’re creating a unique experience for your audience – and that experience will keep them coming back to your social channels time after time.

Keep Content Crisp

Bentley McBentleson, digital marketing manager at KFC, notes that keeping your content fresh sometimes requires “making nods to meme culture.” KFC did precisely that by including cats climbing on Colonel Sanders in a livestream. The quirky collaboration fit well with the brand’s identity, and caught viewers’ attention.

Curious about the rest of the conference? Catch more insights at the #RaganAmazon hashtag on Twitter.

Megha Pai is an assistant account executive at Havas PR. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Expert Panelists Give the 411 on Crisis Communications

Photo by Tim Long

By Ashley Jones

PR professionals of all levels, including eager students ready to enter the field, gathered this past Thursday to tackle the elephant in the room – crisis communication and management. While only a piece of the puzzle that comprises the entirety of PR, crisis communication is undoubtedly one of the more well-known components of our industry to those outside of the profession and one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects to those working in it every day.

It can be daunting to have a brand’s reputation and the success of their business relying on your team’s shoulders – particularly in this digital age where information spreads across screens like wildfire. Though a far cry from the medical field, crisis communications can best be described as the “brain surgery of PR” – we must be informed on each individual case, spot on in our approach and execution, and anticipatory of any setbacks that may require alternate tactics. So, how do we ensure we’re equipped to take on the worst? We turned to our expert veterans in the field to share their experience, advice, and best practices.

Moderated by Robin Rectenwald, Account Supervisor, WordWrite Communications LLC, a packed room in Point Park University’s media center listened to, and interacted with, a talented panel consisting of Paul Furiga, President & CEO, WordWrite Communications LLC; Cooper Munroe, CEO, The Motherhood Inc.; and Nick Paradise, Director of Public Relations & Social Media, Kennywood. For those who were unable to attend, a quick recap:

  • What is a crisis?
    • Paul Furiga likened crisis situations to a pot of water on the burner. Issues that cause the water to simmer can eventually boil over when left untreated or handled incorrectly, eventually becoming a crisis that can burn down the kitchen and leave lasting devastating effects.
  • Across industries, what are the common threads of crises and advice you give clients?
    • According to research, 95% of crises can be anticipated or avoided. Cooper Munroe reminded us that we live in an age of outrage. We’re emotional beings that have been provided digital vessels to react during our most vulnerable moments to delicate situations. PR teams need to have efficient processes and templates in place for clients to ensure lightning speed action and response. It’s all about proficiency and transparency.
  • What happens when the media calls about a crisis?
    • When you pick up the phone and a reporter is on the other end in a moment of crisis, remember to ask/say these three things: “What’s the story?,” “What’s your deadline?,” and “Let me get back to you.” The media is neither friend or foe, be as professional as possible and return accurate information to them as soon as possible.
  • How do you handle a viral media post?
    • Nick Paradise prompted us to remember a moment in time can live forever on social media. We were reminded to take a step back to assess the situation. Does a post need a response? Does the conversation need to be taken offline? Sometimes the best thing we can do is redirect to the positives and rely on our influencers and supporters to defend us.
  • What should companies do to return to normalcy?
    • With crises there are three steps: stop the bleeding, win hearts and minds, and restore reputation. Based on the degree of the crisis, timelines for each of these vary. However, having a thoughtful plan of action, professional execution, and consistency is pertinent to overcome the challenge.

After an informative hour and a half, it was clear: never mind our levels of expertise, when it comes to crisis communications we must rely on the capabilities of ourselves and our colleagues. The success of solving a crisis requires a strong, communicative PR team that practices timeliness, perspective, proficiency, transparency, and authenticity for their clients.

Thank you to our excellent moderator and panelists for extending their time and expertise to support the success of others in the field and thank you to all who attended. Be sure to join us at our happy hour on Thursday, September 27 from 5:30PM to 7:30PM at Pig Iron in Cranberry, PA.

 

PRSA Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Magazine Talk Shop

By Jen Rignani

When members of PRSA Pittsburgh and staff of Pittsburgh Magazine gathered at the publication’s offices on a rain-soaked Tuesday morning on August 21, the algorithms that dictate our daily lives were silenced, if just for 90 minutes. The indubitable fact was this: For all of the digital tools and outlets available to us, personal relationships between editorial teams and communications professionals are the heartbeat of successful journalism and PR.

Lethargy can make us settle, in our profession, to pitch to emails (not people) and seek the easiest digital path to publication. So “putting a face to the name” plays a critical role in sharpening our skills. Traditional journalism and experienced publications have high standards and to navigate their terrain, it’s key to understand the genesis of idea to story. Further, it’s easy to get sucked into outlets like Media Post or chase the big dogs like The Wall Street Journal and forget what we have in our own Pittsburgh hills. City and regional magazines are considered a major media market and knowing the key people at the publication is a benefit we were delighted to extend to attendees from PRSA.

With Pittsburgh Magazine’s 50th birthday just around the corner, sprits were high. Editor Brian Hyslop and Betsy Benson, publisher and vice president actively engaged with young professionals who braved the weather to benefit from their deep expertise. For early-career PRSA members present, the breakfast event provided rare access to two highly experienced journalists and their team. Some highlights of the conversation:

  • All writers for the magazine adhere to strict journalistic guidelines as set for by the American Society of Magazine Editors, as do all members of the City and Regional Magazine Association.
  • Remember that as a monthly magazine, editors are working 2-3 months in advance on editions. So, don’t pitch a Christmas story in December!
  • “The 412” is a daily newsletter from the editors, and an opportunity to reach audiences in between issues.
  • The magazine always has, and always will have professional fact checkers assigned to all articles.

A telling sign of the journalistic times came when attendee Meesha Gerhart, owner of Red Tree Web Design flipped through one of the complimentary issues and asked, “Where do story ideas come from?” In the conversation that ensued, it was evident that it isn’t always clear today the difference between paid content and straight reporting. Betsy Benson emphasized that stories bloom from ideas, not advertising dollars. She said that they welcome outreach from PR professionals to engage with the magazine to do both, as both have great value to consumers and brands. They strive to ensure the difference is clear by labeling paid content.

A huge thank you to our hosts and to our members who took the time to join us. PRSA members who may have missed the event can get to know Pittsburgh Magazine and introduce yourself to the editorial and advertising staff here.

 

Exceeding Expectations: An Introduction into the Real PR World

By Josh Plichta

Once I graduate, how on earth am I going to network? Nobody is going to care about that new guy who works for a competitor. It’s over. The times of asking questions and being a student are gone. I am one of the “professionals” who is supposed to be giving advice, not asking for it.

OK, maybe a little dramatic. But that is what all too recent, senior in college Josh thought about entering the so-called, “real world,” and what a number of my fellow graduating peers thought as well.

Leaving PRSSA and joining PRSA felt like a major jump. I imagined a huge difference between the two organizations—one that went from development, to strictly professional all of the time.

Instead, my first experience with PRSA showed me that as PR professionals, we never stop developing. We never stop asking questions or being students either. Instead, we collaborate with each other, learn from one another and share experiences.

My eyes were opened to PRSA Pittsburgh a few weeks ago during a tour of Gatesman’s brand-new, downtown office. The welcoming atmosphere of not only the office space, but employees and fellow attendees, shaped my first PRSA experience. While I have been lucky enough to grow into a professional role through numerous internships and classroom experiences, seeing the benefits and authenticity of PRSA as a professional organization opened my eyes.

Hearing from the Gatesman PR team about their individual paths to becoming PR professionals or how they find passion in their client work every single day put me at ease entering a new experience. While I have the experience and confidence needed, extra opportunities like this past Thursday solidified my thoughts about PR and threw any reservations about joining PRSA out the window. With my first true PRSA experience (emphasis on one less ‘S’) under my belt, I look forward to more opportunities to come.


 

Josh Plichta is a recent graduate from Otterbein University where he studied public relations and health communications.

Your Questions About Google Analytics and SEO: Answered

By Kristen Hammett

Once upon a time, PR professionals working with data analytics wasn’t even a thought. Today, that’s no longer the case.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a bigger part of public relations than ever before. Joining forces, PR and digital experts can make a significant impact on their digital marketing plans. At the end of the day, the two have the same goal in mind: enhance brand awareness.

That’s why, on May 24th from 12 – 1:30 p.m, PRSA Pittsburgh will be holding an SEO & Google Analytics panel. The event will be moderated by Steve Radick, VP, Director of Public Relations and Content Integration, Brunner with insights from three local experts:

  • Kevin Amos, VP, Performance Marketing and Analytics, Brunner
  • Dan Monarko, Head of Channel Strategy and Analytics, Smith Brothers
  • Heather Starr, Chair of the Department of Community Engagement, Point Park University

When asked what attendees will gain from this event, Heather Starr said,

“I want to help lower the mental barrier of entry that many people have on SEO and Analytics. Too many PR people view it as a marketing tactic driven by algorithms and complex spreadsheets. And while that’s certainly a part of it, there’s also an art to it too.

Whether you’re analytical or creative or both, there’s an important role for you to play in the SEO and data analytics role. I want people to leave the panel and not only understand that, but to reach across the table to their analytics colleagues with some ideas on how they can better work together.”

Radick also weighed in on what he expects attendees to learn:

“I’d like people to understand that analytics is something that everyone can use to help them grow their brand. While they can get quite complex, just knowing the basics and using the data to inform your choices can make a big impact in engaging with customers.”

You may not realize it now, but blog posts like this one, content calendars, and many other types of digital output are great examples of how PR and SEO work together. Quality links and content bind PR and SEO together like glue.

If you would like to learn more about how these two distinct disciplines work together to achieve the same goals, or you have questions about SEO and Google Analytics, register for the event here.

Chick-fil-A is on the menu for lunch. Bring your appetite!

Takeaways from the Ragan Media Relations Conference

By Deanna Tomaselli

From April 3-5, I traveled to New York City to attend the Ragan PR & Media Relations Conference hosted by KPMG. You may have caught it on our Instagram stories! Here, a variety of speakers and panelists shared insights and best practices for cultivating relationships with members of the press, grabbing media coverage and getting brand stories told. Here are some of the highlights:

Write enticing copy with the AP

Amir Bibaway from The Associated Press kicked things off with practical tips on writing enticing copy. Amir actually reads every single pitch he receives, and that’s a lot. It’s nice to know someone is reading our stuff. Per Amir, “Nothing is easier than to stop reading!” And he’s right – journalists will drop off after reading a pitch that’s way too lengthy and confusing. So, what are they looking for?

  • Entice the reader from the first sentence and give a hook.
  • Tell a story.
  • Anecdotes are great – if they are true.
  • Numbers and data are EVERYTHING.
  • Always include visuals, quotes and photos.

Amir also stressed to pick up the phone! This is debated in the PR community but personally, I agree with this. More often than not they may have missed or forgotten about an email, so a quick phone call can allow you to cut through the clutter and remind them. Amir also said to be aware of deadlines, and if the journalist says it’s not relevant, reply and ask them what else they are working on to keep the conversation going.

Tying social media into your PR efforts with Muckrack

Greg Galant, co-founder and CEO of Muckrack, spoke to how social and PR can work together in your media relations efforts. Don’t spend too much time on Twitter? Rethink your approach! Per a recent Muckrack report, 70 percent of journalists still use Twitter. Here you can see what they’re tweeting and do your research, and also interact with them and share their stories. And if you’re really lucky, slide into their DMs. Speaking of, here are some fun facts from Greg from that recent Muckrack report:

  • Journalists LOVE being followed and they love when you share their stories. They need eyeballs on their articles.
  • Follow and engage with journalists BEFORE you pitch them, that way you establish some sort of relationship/recognition with them.
  • Follow #journorequest for hot leads.
  • Best time of day to pitch? Morning.
  • 93 percent of journalists prefer email.
  • Make your pitch under three paragraphs – the shorter the better!

Why do journos reject a pitch?

  • Not personalized.
  • Confusing.
  • Too lengthy.
  • Bad timing.

Get to the point!

Joel Scwartzberg, senior director of strategic and executive communications with the ASPCA didn’t bring in any cute puppies, but he did bring Albert Einstein. One of my favorite quotes I always think of in PR is how Joel opened his presentation: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Joel and Einstein are right. Joel gave us a quick quiz to ensure that the statements we are pitching are in fact grammatically correct (Can it follow, “I believe that…”) and also true and feasible. Starting with something correct and true, then you have to ask yourself, “What is the highest value we can attach to the message to make it the most compelling?” He also stressed to avoid “badjectives” like great, important, etc. Not relevant! So think like Joel and be succinct, compelling, and add value.

The Pitch Tank

One of my favorite parts about media relations conferences from Ragan is their “Pitch Tank” sessions. Here, you can stand up in front of the entire room and panel of journalists, Shark Tank style, and say your pitch out loud. This is a unique way of getting immediate feedback. The panel gave great insight into what makes a great pitch:

  • Make it visual.
  • What are you bringing that’s NEW?
  • Don’t use superlatives.
  • Do your research.
  • If possible, don’t cold pitch.
  • Treat a journalist like a PERSON, not slimy sales pitch-esque.

If a journalist is interested, they have to sell the story too, to their editors or producers, so equip them with the best possible information and hooks to ensure it’s sold all the way through.

The Media Relations Conference was a great three days of learning and interacting. Check out the hashtag #raganPR on Twitter for lots more tips and tweets. What tips will you take away from this? What are some tips you’d recommend in making a great pitch? Let us know in the comments.


 

Deanna Tomaselli is an account supervisor at Havas PR and an active member of the PRSA Pittsburgh board. She shares industry insights and career learnings on PRettyinPgh.com.

Young Professional Communicator Tour Recap: Moxie

By Cameron Finney and Kameryn McGee

For four years, college students are constantly trying to figure out their career and question what it will be like to experience the “real world” industry.  If you’re lucky, you’ll find great connections that lead to amazing opportunities and even a possible job. For the world of communications, specifically public relations and advertising, you are always aiming to get that experience that leads you to working for an agency or firm.

Joining national organizations like the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is a great way to find those connections and get prepared for that next step. The Clarion University PRSSA chapter, along with other young professionals and universities, was able to attend the Young Professional Communicator Tour presented by PRSA Pittsburgh and Moxie on March 29.

Moxie is a well-known marketing agency, headquartered in Atlanta, with offices in Pittsburgh. Its impressive client roster includes Rachael Ray’s Nutrish, Piada, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Porsche and UPMC, just to name a few. Moxie planned a panel of six employees to discuss how they got started, what skills they find to be most important to have in the industry, their favorite projects they’ve worked on and offer other advice for the eager young professionals.

The atmosphere was fun, exciting and family-like amongst the employees. The excitement for their work came through in their voices and gave all that attended a lot to look forward to for their future.

Join Us at the PRSSA Graduation Party

Image via AIA Pittsburgh

Join PRSA Pittsburgh on Wednesday, April 25, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Poros in Market Square to celebrate the PRSSA 2018 graduates. Join us for drinks and appetizers while networking with PR professionals.

The cost to attend for PRSSA student is $25, which will include a drink ticket, appetizers and a discount on their PRSA Associate Membership.

Upon arrival, students will receive information regarding the PRSA Associate Membership and a promo code that they will enter at checkout when registering as a PRSA Pittsburgh Member.

In anticipation of the event, a few of our board members and committee leads shared the following advice for PRSSA graduates.

“Be aggressive. It may feel like you are reaching out to too many people or too much, but keeping yourself top of mind for busy professionals will help you in the end,” said Sydney Carver, PRSA Pittsburgh Social Media/Publicity Chair.

“There are a lot of new graduates and not a lot of available positions. Working three or four internships even after graduating is common. Many will get frustrated and give up. Don’t let a boring, run-of-the-mill resume keep you from reaching your potential. Spend some time now updating your resume and online presence to set yourself apart. Even that may not be enough to get you the job, but it should at least help you get your resume printed out and put on the boss’s desk a lot more often,” said Steve Radick, PRSA Pittsburgh Immediate Past President.

We are honored to recognize PRSSA members at our graduation celebration on April 25 – before you put on that cap and gown, stop by Poros to celebrate!

Be sure to RSVP here.

Duquesne PRSSA’s Experience Hosting its Third Annual Networking Event: “Bridging Opportunities”

By Duquesne PRSSA

This semester, our Chapter has held its third annual “Bridging Opportunities” networking event on Friday, March 23, from 5:30-7 P.M. in the Duquesne Student Union. This event continues the tradition of our Chapter of holding a networking event open to the entire school each spring semester where students can interact and connect with different employers in the marketing, advertising, and public relations field.

Since this is the Chapter’s biggest event of the year, it is very important that we prioritized and executed all of the necessary steps to make the event possible. The first thing we needed to complete was the room request and order food through Parkhurst Catering. Next, we wanted to focus on outreach. We created flyers, brochures, posters, a press release in the Duquesne Duke, and an email blast to all Business and Liberal Arts school students. Lastly, we had to gather information on the companies that we were hoping would attend, create and send an invitation, and then see which companies confirmed.

On the day of the event, timing and logistics were very important. We had to make sure we picked up the catered food on time, make sure representatives knew when and where the event was taking place, and make sure other PRSSA members could get to the event. Finally, any expenses we had were written down in a spreadsheet, included with receipts, were given to the Reimbursement Center. Overall, we learned that time management is crucial.

If you don’t manage your time wisely, duties can begin to add up, causing a hectic and stressful situation. We also learned that things don’t always go as planned. We had to adjust on various different occasions, but just because you have to take a different approach, it doesn’t always mean that the overall goal will be ruined.


 

Students who join PRSSA at Duquesne University participate in professional development, firm tours, visits from public relations professionals and hands-on, skill building public relations activities.  In addition, our Chapter sponsors networking opportunities in the form of talks and roundtable discussions led by Pittsburgh’s top public relations professionals.